Pope Francis will join with American Cardinals to honor Blessed Junípero Serra with a morning of prayer and reflection at the Pontifical North American College in Rome on May 2. The event is meant to encourage devotion to the future saint and founder of the California missions, the National Catholic Register reports.
The event will also serve to make up for the fact that the pope will not be able to celebrate Blessed Serra’s canonization in California during his U.S. visit later this year. American Cardinals Raymond Burke, James Harvey, J. Francis Stafford and Edwin O’Brien will be present at the day of prayer in Rome.
Archbishop José Gomez will also attend the event as a representative of California. He will give a talk on the origins and history of religion in the United States.
Pope Francis will conclude the morning event with the celebration of Mass.
During the papal visit to the United States in September, Pope Francis is expected to canonize Blessed Serra in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
When Father Junipero Serra died in 1784, he was mourned by the friars and Indians, who referred to him for generations after his death as “el santo”— the saint. However, real efforts to canonize him were not begun until the 1940s, when the Franciscan Province of St. Barbara opened the formal investigation of Father Serra’s canonization.
On Jan. 15, 2015, Pope Francis surprised the world by announcing that he will canonize Father Serra when he comes to the United States in September 2015. Serra will be the first native saint from the Balearic Islands and the first saint to be canonized on U.S. soil. Long loved in California, Serra will be revered by the whole world as a symbol of heroic sacrifice and evangelization. To learn more, visit www.stjunipero.org.